KEENE, NH — Campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, Ted Cruz became the latest Republican presidential candidate to speak openly about a family member’s experience with addiction.
Cruz answered a voter’s question about the drug epidemic by talking about his older half-sister, Miriam, who died from a drug overdose in 2011. But after briefly telling her story — one that he does not often invoke — Cruz said that the only way to fix the country’s drug problems is to secure the border.
“One of the most important elements of dealing with the drug crisis is securing our border,” he said during a meet and greet in Keene, NH. “In Texas we’ve got 1,200 miles of border. The drug cartels come across that border trafficking human beings and illegal immigration but also trafficking drugs.”
Cruz then pointed to the detailed immigration plan on his campaign website, saying his proposals would “impact the drug market dramatically.”
The remarks came during the second day in his five-day bus tour across the Granite State, a place he noted has been hit by the drug crisis particularly hard. It’s a topic that’s on a lot of voters’ minds throughout the state — an October survey from the University of New Hampshire and WMUR found that a quarter of voters in New Hampshire think drug abuse is the most important problem facing the state.
But the drug epidemic in New Hampshire — a state with a small immigrant population — needs a response that includes a lot more outreach and efforts than just securing the border. While a number of policy solutions would help state residents deal with the issue, securing the border may not be one of them. As of 2010, the most treated addiction in the state was not to heroin but to other opiates, including prescription medications that are easily available domestically.
New Hampshire ranks second to last among the states when it comes to access to substance abuse treatment, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report from 2014. And a Kids Count report released last year found that the state is tied for last in the country in treating addiction in young people.
State lawmakers working on substance abuse issues have prioritized prescription drug monitoring, increasing funding for state drug courts and police departments, and making anti-overdose drugs more readily available. None of the local lawmakers talk about cracking down on immigration as a solution.
Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), with the help of the state’s leading drug expert, has also released a series of recommendations to combat the crisis in her state which included many of the same responses in addition to education and awareness campaigns. Not included on her list was anything having to do with securing the border or preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the country.
“What families tell me is they have loved ones who are ready for treatment and tell me they can’t find treatment,” Hassan said, according to WMUR.
Other GOP candidates have also shared how drugs have affected their families and friends. Jeb Bush has spoken about his daughter’s struggle with addiction, Carly Fiorina often speaks about how she lost her step-daughter to alcohol and drug addiction, and Chris Christie has shared the story of a friend who died after becoming addicted to painkillers. But unlike Cruz, the other candidates discuss on the campaign trail potential solutions to the drug crisis in addition to securing the border.